In his first interview since defecting to the South greater than a 12 months in the past, Ryu Hyeon-woo advised CNN that “North Korea’s nuclear energy is instantly linked to the steadiness of the regime” — and Kim doubtless believes nuclear weapons are key to his survival.
Ryu additionally stated earlier US administrations had boxed themselves right into a nook by demanding denuclearization up entrance in negotiations with the totalitarian state.
“The US cannot again down from denuclearization and Kim Jong Un can not denuclearize,” he added.
Ryu and his household defected to South Korea in September 2019, however their actions had been solely made public final week. Decided to provide their teenage daughter a greater life, Ryu stated he and his spouse deliberate their escape for a few month whereas residing in Kuwait.
Ryu stated that if that they had been caught, North Korean brokers would have rapidly taken all of them again to Pyongyang for sure punishment, as defection is taken into account a serious embarrassment to the Kim regime and isn’t taken frivolously.
They lastly advised their daughter in regards to the plan whereas pretending to drive her to highschool.
“Include Mother and Dad to seek out freedom,” Ryu recalled telling his daughter. “She was shocked, then stated, ‘Okay.’ That is all she stated.”
Ryu took his household to the South Korean embassy in Kuwait to say asylum. They traveled to South Korea a number of days later.
Defection from North Korea comes at a monumental price, with defectors having to immediately extreme ties from all household left of their residence nation.
The regime typically punishes nuclear and prolonged households of defectors to discourage individuals from leaving, Ryu stated — particularly diplomats. These posted overseas are sometimes compelled to depart a toddler at residence as a hostage, guaranteeing their mother and father don’t defect.
“I feel that North Korea having such feudal collective familial punishment within the twenty first century is appalling,” Ryu stated.
He’s now nervous about his three siblings and 83-year-old mom nonetheless in North Korea. “I simply wish to see them dwell lengthy,” Ryu stated. “Any considered them being punished for what I’ve performed simply hurts my coronary heart.”
He additionally worries for his spouse’s aged mother and father residing in Pyongyang.
North Korea has lengthy been accused of utilizing its embassies as money cows for the ruling Kim household. Ryu stated that whereas he was a educated diplomat coping with politics, there have been additionally “financial buying and selling employees” assigned to diplomatic posts. They got a quota on the sum of money they have to make for the state, Ryu added.
Ryu stated solely China and Russia had been larger money earners for the regime from North Korean laborers than the Gulf nations of Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE — at the least till 2017, when the United Nations punished Pyongyang for its repeated missile and nuclear assessments by barring nations from using its employees.
“Because of the UN decision, most laborers within the Gulf area left,” he stated.
Ryu additionally was posted to Syria, a detailed ally of North Korea, from 2010 to 2013. Whereas Ryu was charged with overseeing relations with Syrian politicians, his countrymen had been promoting typical weapons to the Bashar al-Assad regime, together with long-range a number of launcher artillery and anti-aircraft weapons techniques. Nevertheless, Ryu stated the nation’s bloody civil struggle compelled Pyongyang to drag its personnel from the nation. He stated he had not heard of any new weapons offers with the Syrians since leaving the nation.
Ryu’s expertise within the Center East gave him an up-close have a look at how the US handled Iran’s nuclear program throughout former President Barack Obama’s administration. He believes that have will turn out to be useful for US President Joe Biden.
“Based mostly on his expertise resolving the Iranian nuclear concern, I’ve little question he’ll be capable to deal with North Korea’s nuclear concern correctly,” Ryu stated.
Ryu stated he believed North Korea could also be prepared to barter a discount in its nuclear weapons, however is unlikely to ever give them up fully. Nevertheless, he stated sanctions could have performed a think about pushing North Korea to the negotiating desk in 2018, when Kim and former US President Donald Trump met for his or her historic summit in Singapore.
Many analysts consider Kim got here to the negotiating desk as a result of he had already developed nuclear weapons and efficiently examined a long-range missile that would attain United States territory.
“The present sanctions on North Korea are unprecedented and robust,” Ryu stated. “I feel sanctions towards North Korea ought to proceed.”
Ryu additionally stated it is vital to not abandon the problem of human rights, which was largely swept beneath the carpet throughout nuclear talks with the Trump administration.
Pyongyang claims to be a socialist paradise and denies allegations of gross human rights violations. North Korea, nevertheless, doesn’t permit freedom of speech or meeting, and residents can not depart. Kim’s regime is accused of working a system of gulags and political jail camps that home greater than 120,000 males, girls and youngsters.
“Human rights is a matter of morality, and within the North Korean regime, the human rights concern is a delicate and critical one,” Ryu stated.
Trying again over the previous 16 months, Ryu says his solely remorse is what would possibly occur to his remaining relations again in Pyongyang. He and his spouse consider they did the appropriate factor for his or her daughter, by taking her away from her residence nation.
Ryu advised CNN he requested his daughter what she likes most about her new residence. “I like the truth that I can use the web as a lot as I would like,” she replied.